Waring Library Society Medical History Moment

By Susan Hoffius

Located on the southwest corner of Ashley Avenue and Beaufain Street overlooking Colonial Lake, the building that is now Baker House condominiums opened on Thanksgiving Day, 1912 as the Baker-Craig Sanatorium. Named for its founders Dr. Archibald E. Baker, Sr. of Charleston and Dr. Lawrence Craig of Dillon, South Carolina, the hospital was a private clinic specializing in surgical and gynecological cases. In 1917 Dr. Craig withdrew from the enterprise, leaving Dr. Baker as the sole owner and principal physician until his death on July 31, 1934.

Dr. Archibald Baker was born on August 9, 1862 in Robeson County, N.C. He attended Davidson College and graduated from the Medical College of the State of South Carolina in 1889. After post-graduate work in New York, Dr. Baker returned to Charleston in 1892, where he entered into practice with Dr. Barnwell Rhett. After Dr. Rhett’s death, Dr. Baker established the sanatorium that bore his name.

The building is a five-story wood frame building with a brick veneer. It was designed by Charleston architect J.D. Newcomer and built at a cost of between $100,000 and $150,000. At the time it opened the hospital had 63 beds and state-of-the-art obstetrical and operating rooms. When its establishment was announced in an October 6, 1911 article in the News and Courier, the hospital was described to be equipped “in such manner that within its walls all classes of patients can be cared for — those seeking both surgical and medical treatment. The building will be steam-heated and a number of rooms will have private baths. A feature of this institution will be the solarium, where patients can benefit by sun baths.” Rates for the hospital ranged from $12 to $50 per week, with the more expensive rooms including a bedroom, bath and sun parlor.

Dr. Baker was active in numerous professional organizations, including the American Medical Association, the Southern Medical Society, the South Carolina Medical Association and the Medical Society of South Carolina; he was elected a fellow in the American College of Surgeons. In addition to his active practice, Dr. Baker was clinical professor of gynecology and abdominal surgery at his alma mater and he operated a nursing training school, from which 120 nurses graduated between 1915 and 1934.

Following Dr. Baker’s death, his son Dr. Archibald E. Baker, Jr. continued to operate Baker Sanatorium until 1949, when he reorganized the hospital as a charitable hospital managed by a board of trustees. At the time it was reorganized the name was changed to Baker Memorial Hospital, though the sanatorium continued to serve the community as it had before. In 1963 the trustees of the hospital bought the building from the Baker family, though Dr. Robert Baker, Jr. continued to lease office space there. In 1981, when the hospital moved to a new building in North Charleston, the old hospital was converted to a condominium complex called Baker House.

To learn more about Baker Sanatorium in Charleston, visit the Waring Historical Library on the campus of the Medical University of South Carolina. Please visit waring.library.musc.edu for upcoming events and digital collections.

The Waring Library Society is a “friends of the library” organization that supports the mission of MUSC’s Waring Historical Library. Named for Joseph I. Waring, Jr., its first director, the Waring Historical Library preserves rare books, manuscripts and museum artifacts documenting the history of the health sciences in South Carolina and the Southeast. To learn more about the Waring’s programs and events or inquire about membership in the society, please visit waring.library.musc.edu.

 

CAPTIONS

1: Exterior of Baker-Craig Sanatorium, no date. Recent gift of the descendants of Archibald E. Baker Sr.

2: Nurses graduating from Baker Sanatorium, no date. Dr. Archibald Baker Sr. is the man in glasses to the left.

Mercury newspaper racks are located at the following locations:

The Meeting Street Inn

Clair's Service Station at 334 Folly Rd.

Harris Teeter on Houston-Northcutt Blvd.

The Square Onion in I'On

Mt. Pleasant Library on Mathis Ferry Rd.